What do the numbers reveal about the Anna Maria Island real estate market?
In the last 12 months there has been a nearly 19% increase in sales over the previous year. Inventory of properties for sale in November 2012 was 323, the lowest since the 2005 market bubble and the crash high of almost 1000 in 2006.
What are the visible signs of real estate activity?
Within a few blocks I observed 7 properties under construction. Two are in the process of demolition, one is new, and the rest are remodels of existing structures.
Waterfront house before demolition
This house sold for $695,000 recently. It has expansive water views of Bimini Bay and boat access to Tampa Bay and Gulf of Mexico without going under any bridges.
Many who have stayed for years at island resorts for their annual vacations eventually think about buying property in their favorite place. Anna Maria Island is that favorite place for a wide range of people who have one thing in common: they love the simple, Old Florida beauty here. Although Anna Maria Island lodging offers a wide range of comfortable places to stay, there is something special about having one’s own island home.
Since many people thinking of making the move are from places very different from this tropical island paradise, here is a list of things to watch out for as one selects one’s new island home:
1. Neighborhood flooding can come from high tides, storm surges or just heavy rainfall. Just one or two inches of elevation can make the difference between whether a particular home or yard is often standing in water, or not. Ideally, the potential home buyer should be sure to visit the island during the rainy season, staying at one of the island resorts, in order to drive around after heavy rain and see which properties are standing in water. It’s very hard to predict which properties will be dry and which will be flooded just by looking at them. At the very least, try to talk to others in the neighborhood and ask how often the street is closed due to high rainfall, or whether they have seen standing water at the property in which you are interested.
2. Anna Maria Island rentals are often interspersed among second homes that are not rented. Anyone who depends on peace and quiet should take a careful look at whether there are a lot of island rentals signs in the yards on the street where they are considering buying. Usually, there are more island rentals close to the beach, and this is one reason it’s not necessarily ideal to own a home right at the beach, unless, of course, you plan to rent it. If that’s the case, it’s good to keep in mind that rental properties with swimming pools are much easier to rent.
Exploring the wide variety of neighborhoods on beautiful Anna Maria Island is easy and fun. Depending on how much time you have, you can take a quick car tour, or a leisurely stroll. And there are many other options in between.
In addition to all the fine shops and restaurants that attract many visitors, the neighborhoods, themselves, are an attraction. The charming old houses and dense vegetation that characterize “Old Florida” offer endless interesting details and variety to be enjoyed by the curious visitor or local.
One way to get an even more intimate look at the lovely neighborhoods of Anna Maria Island is to tour around it on weekends, in order to drop in at yard sales and real estate open houses. It’s a sure way to make friends and see how other people have chosen to live on an island.
The island’s free trolley makes it very easy to travel any part of the island on foot, since you can always hop on for a ride if you get tired or short on time. This brings up a great way to start a walk from a variety of points around the island. It also makes it easy to take long walks in one direction without having to backtrack to get home.
Another fun way to wind up and down the streets to look at the vegetation and architecture is from the other side … the water. The island is ideal for very pleasant kayaking. The canals off of Bimini Bay are quite sheltered, offering smooth conditions even on breezy days. In addition to seeing interesting trees, flowers, decks and docks, one may be greeted by a manatee, a dolphin or a duck. And it’s not unusual to see a variety of herons, ospreys, and egrets perching and staring at you as you go by.
It has been a difficult few years for anyone wanting to sell a home on Anna Maria Island. Having been part of Florida’s spectacular growth, prices on island homes had risen tremendously since the 1990’s, and therefore were subject to the same kind of fall that all popular markets experienced starting a little over three years ago. But at least there always is something about a beautiful island that sets its properties apart from the larger inventories on the mainland. There is only a finite number of island homes, and people will always want to live on an island. So there is reason to believe properties on Anna Maria will be in demand again sooner than the general market.
The question is whether the nation is beginning to see a general upturn in housing sales and prices yet. There have been articles in highly regarded publications, such as the Wall Street Journal, indicating this may be the case. In a recent article in the Anna Maria Island Sun, Louise Bolger points out that Maureen Maitland, vice president for index services at Standard & Poor’s, has speculated that we may look back on April, 2009, as the trough in home prices.
Speaking of speculation, that would mean this could be a very good time to buy an investment home in Anna Maria Island … if you can afford the high property taxes. At least there is the possibility of covering some of those taxes and carrying costs through rental. And rumor has it that if the house has a swimming pool, it is much easier to rent. Of course this all is speculation, and speculation is largely responsible for the bubble and its bursting that put the market where it is today.
Although I love the thought of eating food fresh from the garden, the fact is, some foods taste no better when you grow them yourself. For example, I’ve never thought a home-grown carrot tasted any better than store-bought. It makes it hard for me to want to spend the time involved in gardening, especially during Florida’s warmer months. However, there are some foods that grow here with almost no attention, and they taste far better than store bought. We acquired two such delicacies with our Anna Maria Island property when we bought it ten years ago.
When we met at the lawyer’s office to close on the purchase of our new home, I asked the previous owner if it were necessary to water anything in the yard. Completely new to Florida, I had absolutely no experience or knowledge of landscaping and gardening on Anna Maria Island. “If you want bananas, you’d better water those,” he said. That was all.
Since then, we have done very little watering, including of the bananas that grow along the property line. Every once in awhile, when it’s been extremely dry, we give them a little water. Every year or so, we give them a little fertilizer. When we cut off the old, tattered fronds, we leave them under the banana trees and they act as mulch, holding in whatever moisture may be in the soil.